The Russian-born Israeli-American pianist Yefim Bronfman has been a fixture of concert stages, especially in the U.S., since becoming an American citizen in 1989. He is especially admired for his performances of modern Russian repertory, in which he balances pianistic fireworks with the moody introspection common to many of the works of the otherwise diverse Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Bronfman was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on April 10, 1958. He had his first lessons from his mother, a piano teacher by trade. The family emigrated to Israel in 1973, and the teenaged Yefim began piano studies at Tel Aviv University. After just two years of work with teacher Arie Vardi, he was ready for a prestigious international debut with the Montreal Symphony under Zubin Mehta. Bronfman rounded out his studies in the U.S. at the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute, and the Marlboro Festival; private teachers included Rudolf Firkusny, Leon Fleisher, and Rudolf Serkin. In 1978 he made his debut with the New York Philharmonic, and his recital debuts in New York and in Washington, D.C., were equally prestigious: they occurred at the 92nd Street Y and the Kennedy Center, respectively.
Since then, Bronfman's touring schedule has included stops at most of the world's major concert halls. His consistent popularity has dovetailed with that of Russian music generally, and he has recorded all five Prokofiev piano concertos and all seven of the composer's technically fearsome sonatas. His own repertoire, however, extends as far back as the music of Domenico Scarlatti, and he was given a Grammy award in 1997 for his recordings of Bartók's three piano concertos with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has notched several other Grammy and Gramophone award nominations. Bronfman records for Sony, where he released a two-piano collaboration with Emanuel Ax, featuring music by Rachmaninov. He has also been an enthusiastic chamber music player. Two high points of his career came in 1991: he returned that year to Russia for the first time since his youth, and he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize. In 2000 he reached wider audiences when his performance of Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 was featured in the film Fantasia 2000; he performed the work live at special screenings of the film in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Tokyo. Bronfman's performance of the two Shostakovich concertos was released in conjunction with the film, and he has continued to appear on top marquees in the early 2000s.